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Kachashi contest highlights Hagoromo Festival

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2010-08-12

Ginowan City’s the place to be this weekend, as the central Okinawa city celebrates its 33rd annual Hagoromo Festival, an event that traditionally draws more than 100,000 spectators.

With the concepts of international harmony and friendship as a backdrop, Saturday and Sunday’s festival at Kaihin Park near the Okinawa Convention Center, organizers have a full slate of top notch entertainers geared up to perform, as well as the ever-popular Kachashi competition. Opening ceremonies take place late Saturday afternoon about 3:45 p.m., leading into an evening of music and dancing to include Hagoromo Taiko drums, Eisa, dance performances and concerts. The 6:55 p.m. Parade of the Ryukyu Kingdom features era costumes.

Organized by a group of residents’ associations and the arcade street association, and co-sponsored by the Ginowan City, Ginowan City Tourism Promotion Association and the Ginowan City Chamber of Commerce, the Hagoromo Festival caps a week-long cultural celebration. Aside from traditional festival activities, organizers are sponsoring clean-the-downtown sessions both Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Those wanting to help can meet in front of the main festival entrance, or near the open stage theater.

Kachashi, a joyful Okinawan folk dance, is a key element of the festival. Kachashi is the dance locals perform on happy occasions to the accompaniment of sanshin and small drums. Hagoromo, or Hanisu in the Okinawan dialect, means a celestial robe. During the Hagoromo Festival, a plethora of historical costumes are everywhere. Great opportunities for memorable photographs.

The legend behind Hagoromo keeps growing each year, with variations in mainland Japan and around the world. The gist of it, though, is that a man walking near a river came upon a beautiful robe he’d never seen before, and took it home and placed it in a storage room. Returning to the river, he spotted a beautiful heavenly maiden bathing. As she finished, she found her robe gone, a disturbing discovery.

The man stepped forward, talking to her gently, inviting her to his home. The two later married and had two children, a boy and a girl. As the children were growing up, the maiden heard the older child sing a lullaby to her brother. The song was about the robe kept in storage. Although the woman was living a happy life, she couldn’t resist the temptation of getting it back, found it, put it on, and immediately had to go back to heaven, leaving her husband and children.

The story usually ends on this sad note, but the legend of Hagoromo told in Ginowan City continues, as the son became King Saion, a powerful 14th century lord who contributed to building the Kingdom of the Ryukyus. The name Hagoromo Kachashi was taken from the story, and combined with the energetic dance of Kachashi. For those who missed last week’s big Eisa festival in Naha, the Hagoromo Festival is a chance to catch up and see the Ryukyu Kingdom costumes.

The Saturday afternoon parade traveling the Kankaimon Street route just outside the convention center complex will move into the festival area at the Kankaimon Gate. Hundreds will be participating in the parade, including eisa groups, while still others dress up in traditional clothing. The afternoon events at the outdoor theater include live music starting at 4 p.m., and Kachashi dance starting at 6:30 p.m. Live concerts take place Saturday evening on the main stage. Featured performers at the live show are Glean Piece, Johnny Ginowan, Keiko Higa and Shima Taiko.

Elsewhere on the festival grounds, expect the usual festival food, souvenir and amusement booths, along with fireworks at the beach starting at 9 p.m. Official festival hours are from mid-afternoon Saturday to 9:15 p.m. Sunday’s hours are from 11 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.

Sunday entertainment is mixed, with action on the main stage beginning shortly after 1 p.m., when arm wrestling pits spectators challenging each other. Cat’s Eye talent school dance team performances are at 5:10 p.m., followed by taiko drums and the Hagoromo Kachasi dance contest. Fireworks cap the Sunday festival entertainment with a 20-minute barrage of pyrotechnics lighting up the skies over the Convention Center site.

The Cost
As with all festivals, entry is free. Spending is whatever you want it to be, driven by thirst and hunger, coupled with individual abilities to resist purchasing souvenirs at the countless stands ringing the festival site.

Getting There
From northern military bases, travel south on Highway 58. Immediately after passing Camp Foster’s Kitamae Gate, look for Convention Center signs and turn right. The Convention Center and festival site are about three kilometers south.

Coming from Camp Kinser and Naha, travel north on Highway 58. At signs for the Convention Center, turn left. The festival site and Convention Center are about 1.5 kilometers away.

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